Whilst pregnant with my son I frequently found myself imagining what type of parent I would be. Having spent the first part of my career working with hundreds of families, I often came across versions of parenting I admired and of course, versions of parents I vowed I would never be. Back then it was easy to make assumptions and bold statements about the type of mother I aspired to be, how naive I was.
Throughout the whole pregnancy process, I never paid much attention to the books telling me what type of parenting style I should adopt, I figured it would all fall into place when my little one arrived.
One night (actually very early in the morning to be specific) I stood swaying in my bedroom, my husband asleep, my little boy in my arms, it was 3am and surprisingly I was in a particularly zen state. I’d been in this position for almost an hour, gently swaying back and forth with my little bundle in my arms. The movement felt so natural, intuitive and as I stood there I began to understand what type of parent I would try to be. A parent who moves.
Helicopter or snow plough or dolphin or authoritative or tiger… who knows what’s best; it baffles me that these labels even exist. Movement for me is the key. I know that when I move with my son the benefits are vast, it’s incredible really to think that something so simple could also be so complex. Movement can both calm and energetic. It teaches my son and I’m learning all the time from him.
The complexities of movement are rooted in the primal vestibular system; the first sense to develop in utero. This wonderful system provides the building blocks to our balance and spatial awareness, the ability to stay upright and track with our eyes. It helps to settle a newborn baby whilst also giving the vital feedback to develop their wonderful little brains. It develops over time through movement, information sent through the canal of the ear to be precise.The fluid moving within the ear sends signals to the brain about our position in space.
So imagine my frustration as a new parent, in my exhausted, sleep deprived state that I could not in fact sit and cuddle my crying baby to sleep. I learnt by watching my mothers unwavering energy as she would sway, rock and bounce my son back to sleep. Movement was the answer! Hence why I was stood swaying at 3am.
Since my 3am epiphany I’ve been conscious of allowing my son the time he needs to move. In the early days I wouldn’t spend fraught hours trying to coax him onto his tummy for that “essential tummy time”, nor did I wedge his little body into a seat designed to keep him upright. Our bodies are wonderful things, especially a child’s body. They’ll do it when they’re ready. Instead I would lay him out on a soft mat on the floor (made by Granny of course) and allow him the time to explore his own movements. His brilliant little legs kicking and stretching, his perfect little hands flexing. The reflexes left over from primal times.
My little one is still just a dot, he’s crawling and cruising, taking those first few tentative steps. He moves confidently around our house or whatever surroundings we’re in. What amazes me most is that he’s strong and doesn’t tend to get phased easily with physical challenges. He’s happiest following a ball or boldly climbing the rungs of his pikler triangle.
My friend taught me the phrase a “circle of neglect” to describe the big plastic activity seats to entertain little ones. There are definitely times where I felt that familiar “mom guilt” as I let my son roll about the room, doubting myself that I wasn’t giving him the best start. I’m certain it was the harder way to do it, constantly watching to see which part of the room he’d get stuck into next. I didn’t want a “circle of neglect” though, I didn’t want to have his little limbs limited to just his immediate vicinity.
I stuck to my gut instinct, knowing that surely allowing him to move as he pleased was the most natural way for him to develop.
When children are free to move, explore their surroundings, negotiate their environment they begin to experience the world around them. Each time they move, their little bodies respond to the stimuli around them and send feedback to their growing brains. What I find fascinating is that each experience carves the way for more. More synapses, more connections between the brain cells and these form the pathways for higher learning later in life. Without those early movement experiences, they don’t have the necessary building blocks for learning.
I hope that my passion for movement in childhood filters through to my little one; the time spent outdoors, the endless chasing around the house as he begins to move around. We may not have the flashing toys and the noisemakers but we do have the fortune of being able to move. Whether it’s crawling around the house, walks to the park or rough and tumble play.
As we race towards my son’s first birthday I often reflect on how much my son’s changed my life. Digging to the depths of my energy reserves to keep moving, both physically and mentally. Learning more about the ways in which he likes to experience life. My expectations have also shifted about how I see him developing; he’s become more engaged, aware and interactive with the world much quicker than I had anticipated. Whizzing through those “key stages,” in a blink of an eye. Rolling, crawling, cruising and beginning to walk all much sooner than I was ready for.
Who knows what type of parent I am, I’m not sure it comes under one specific title. I hope that I’m doing a good job regardless. My child is safe, happy and healthy and surely that’s a great start. I’ll keep listening to my instincts and give my son opportunities to move throughout his childhood. I’ll be the parent who moves.
Lorna is a mum of one wonderful boy, wife to a fab husband, nature lover, child development geek, sportswoman and life enthusiast.
“I began The Fern Club in October 2017 as a space for children and parents to learn in a gentle way, at their own pace and free from judgement, grades or targets. By simply enjoying the process, expanding on what they enjoy they will look forward to the next opportunity to experience something new and naturally refine their skills further.”